Sonoma test gives title contenders pre-race tuneup

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SONOMA, Calif. – Will Power was back in a Verizon IndyCar Series car on Thursday, two days after he was cleared to resume racing activities after experiencing concussion-like symptoms following a crash at Watkins Glen on Sept. 4.

The Team Penske driver’s sole focus during the one-day team test at Sonoma Raceway wasn’t just making sure he was right in the car; it was trying to find the right combination that could lead him to his fourth win on the 12-turn 2.385-mile permanent road course located north of San Francisco.A win in the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma could also bring the Australian his second series title in the last three seasons.

“We’re just testing a bunch of things to help us win the race next weekend,” Power said. “We really need to win the race to win the championship. That would give us the best chance if Simon (Pagenaud) has a bad day.

“It’s really difficult to find a perfect balance at Sonoma because there is such a variance in corners, so you really have to work out the best compromise, basically.

Like Power, Pagenaud, along with the 20 other Verizon IndyCar Series competitors participating in the test, was also searching for the “perfect set up."

“It’s a very important day,” Pagenaud said. “We have a big list of items that we’ve wanted to get through for a while and here is a very interesting race track that doesn’t have a lot of tire degradation. You have a qualifying car and a race car that are very different so it’s good to work on both today. The HP car already feels fast, so I know we have a good baseline”

But the Frenchman also knows that he will clinch his first Verizon IndyCar Series championship – and the third title since he moved to the United States to race a decade ago – if he finished fourth or better next Sunday. And while Pagenaud knows that a Team Penske drivers will win the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers championship in team owner Roger Penske’s 50th year as a team owner, he said the intra-squad, winner-take-all championship race at Sonoma won’t be any different than any other race this season.

“I think a lot of people would be surprised to see the atmosphere with the team is very good,” Pagenaud said. “There’s a lot of respect on both sides. All four teammates (Pagenaud, Power, Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya) have been working well together as a group. It’s just another race.

“We’re really happy that we got the championship for Roger (Penske) after the disappointment of last year and in the 50th anniversary of Team Penske. Everything is open, just like it has been in the beginning. Everything is open for everyone to see.”

Simon Pagenaud at Sonoma

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